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StarKist offers no comments on proposal to shift more canning to American Samoa

StarKist canning plant in American Samoa

Pago Pago, AMERICAN SAMOA — US based StarKist Inc., offers no comments on the company’s proposed move to relocate some of its production from California to American Samoa.

The cannery however confirmed the annual two week end-of-the-year shutdown at StarKist Samoa.

Lt. Gov. Lemanu Palepoi Sialega Mauga’s Nov. 19th summary report, which includes information from an Oct. 30th meeting with Washington D.C. with US Interior Department officials revealed that "the decision by StarKist to relocate production to American Samoa is dependent on approval” of its federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit application. (See Samoa News Dec. 11th edition for details).

Responding to Samoa News inquiries, StarKist corporate spokesperson, Michelle Faist said via email from Pittsburgh that, “We have no additional comments at this time” on the proposed relocation issue.

News of the possible relocation — touted to create between 200-300 jobs — has been welcomed by some in the community (as a way to provide more employment), and embraced by a few businesses who say the increase in employment numbers means a boost in “buying power” for consumers; therefore, helping local businesses.

“It' s been a tough economic year for many businesses and new jobs means, additional money going into the economy,” said a business owner, who noted that while there are a lot of negative remarks about StarKist when it comes to environmental issues (referring to comments posted on Samoa News online),  but “the cannery currently provides a lot of jobs — some 2,400 of them — and that’s a major help for the territory. We don’t have any others in the major private sector industry providing that many jobs.”

And there are also many businesses that benefit from the cannery and its workforce, the owner said.

Gov. Lolo Matalasi Moliga appointed in mid August this year, an eleven-member task force to come up with recommendations to form a government proposal to the US Environmental Protection Agency — which issues the permit — to assist StarKist Samoa’s federal permit request.

The move followed a visit in early August by StarKist president and chief executive officer Andrew Choe who sought the governor’s support on the permit application to the USEPA, “particularly on the operational refuse discharge which was dumped in the ocean but has been discontinued.”

Meanwhile, StarKist has already set in place the annual end of the year shutdown for StarKist Samoa production, and this year, it will be the usual two-weeks instead of three-weeks like last year.

Faist said the last day of production will be Dec. 21st and work will resume Jan. 7, 2019. “We have regularly planned maintenance schedules for the facility” during the down time, she said and confirmed that “all employees will receive gifts and we wish everyone a Happy Holidays.”

StarKist is owned by South Korea based Dongwon Industries, which also owns American Samoa Talofa System Inc., the Satala based can manufacturing plant — whose 100 employees will also be taking the same time off as StarKist Samoa.